By Nat Molomo
MASERU — Opposition Basotho Congress Party (BCP) has accused Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla of compromising the independence of the judiciary by ingratiating himself with the new government.
Justice Lehohla praised the Tom Thabane-led coalition government during the official opening of the High Court last month.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, BCP leader Thulo Mahlakeng said the Chief Justice’s statements on the coalition government had brought the judiciary into disrepute.
In his speech Justice Lehohla called the coalition government a “miracle”.
“This miracle has saved me the usual bother occurring after every general election appointing panels of judges of three per election petition lasting weeks on end, heard at the expense of other cases which had been long in the waiting list,” he said.
“For this the Lesotho voters and wisdom of coalition partners are worthy of high commendation. Coalition now! Coalition! Coalition tomorrow!
“Coalition together equals progress and national peace of mind.”
Mahlakeng said “these words ought not to have come from the Chief Justice”.
“It is unacceptable that the Chief Justice should be seen to be praising the coalition government as if Basotho were wrong to have elected or voted for a party with a majority,” Mahlakeng said.
“The Chief Justice has badly compromised the independence of the judiciary in a manner that is tantamount to bringing the judiciary into disrepute,” he said.
He said by uttering these remarks the Chief Justice was misleading the public.
The constitution, the BCP leader said, allows the party with a majority of seats in parliament to form a government without a coalition.
The second step is that more parties that do not have majority can come together to form a coalition government in a case where no party has enough numbers to form government.
He said it is unfortunate for the Chief Justice to have uttered those remarks contrary to the constitution which gives him power to protect the judiciary.
“By uttering these remarks the Chief Justice is weakening the confidence of those who do not support the coalition government in the country’s judiciary, and this is not in the best interest of the good governance.”
He appealed to the Democratic Congress, which is the main opposition in parliament, to issue a statement because “by remaining silent they are neglecting their responsibility” to scores of Basotho who voted for them.
When asked why he was condemning the remarks more than a month after they were made, the BCP leader said they delayed to respond because they expected that government would come out to censure the Chief Justice.